Grand Jury Service
In the American common law legal system, a grand jury determines if there is enough evidence for a trial. Grand juries carry out this duty by examining evidence presented to them by a prosecutor and issuing indictments, or by investigating alleged crimes and issuing presentments. A grand jury is traditionally larger and distinguishable from a petit jury, which is used during a trial.
The popular belief that the pool of potential juror names comes only from voter registration records is a myth. Voter registration encompasses just one of the many rosters used by the state to create lists provided to each of the 159 counties. The Department of Driver Services, the Secretary of the State and the Department of Public Health provide some of the lists used to add or remove potential juror names from this statewide jury pool. Thus, fear of jury duty should not keep you from registering to vote.
Service on a grand jury will provide you with a unique opportunity to participate in the administration of justice. In order to better appreciate the functions of the grand jury today, it is necessary to understand a little about its history and evolution.
All residents of Georgia may serve on a grand jury if:
- They are a citizen of the United States
- They are 18 years of age or older
- They are not incompetent because of mental illness or retardation
- They are a current resident of the county and have resided in the county for six months prior to serving
- They are the most experienced, intelligent and upright of persons
Any citizen who meets these basic requirements is eligible to be selected for grand jury duty unless he or she:
- Has been convicted of a felony in a state or federal court and has not been pardoned or had his or her civil rights restored
- Currently holds or has, within the previous two years, held an elected office in state or local government;
- Has served as a grand juror in a state court at the preceding term of court.
Individuals who are 70 years old or older may request, in writing, to have their names removed from the jury lists. For further information on this, you should ask the district attorney.
Since Colonial times, Georgia grand juries have also been authorized, and in some cases required, to perform duties unrelated to criminal law. These functions, traditionally referred to as civil functions or duties, fall into four categories: inspections or investigations, elections and voting, appointments and nominations, and miscellaneous duties.
In Georgia, the grand jury is older than the superior courts, the first grand jury having been convened in 1735 in Savannah during the Trustee period. Prior to the American Revolution, grand juries in Georgia and the other colonies played a significant role in opposing British policies.
After the Revolutionary War, the grand jury continued to be a part of the judicial systems in the 13 original states. In Georgia, grand juries played an important role in the development of the State. The routes for many of our early roads were suggested by grand juries in their general presentments.
The role of the grand jury continues to evolve to meet the demands of society. While duties such as inspecting and recommending roads have passed into history, new duties have taken their place.
While the grand jury remains a powerful institution through which ordinary citizens can participate directly in local government, its powers are not unlimited. Within the limits established by law, it is capable of providing a wealth of benefits to all of the residents of a community.
The Grand Jury Handbook, provided by your district attorney’s office, details the history, law and procedures governing the Grand Jury. This handbook provides you with an overview of the duties, functions and limitations of the Grand Jury.